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Saturday, January 04, 2014

Traveling the USA

Once a upon a time, not so long ago and not so far away. We wander throughout the USA discovering culinary delights of the many different states, counties, towns and villages. Did you know northern Michigan is famous for Cornish Pasties or upstate New York has more to offer than Buffalo wings, how about a wonderful roast beef served on a Weck bun.  Seattle of course fish and seafood but so is New Orleans and they are entirely different. St. Louis is the home of Fried ravioli, or the world famous Kentucky fried chicken (before Mr. Sanders). Of course the lobster rolls of New England can't be better anywhere else unless you make a quick dash to the west coast and snack down on the shrimp rolls of San Francisco and while you are there don't forget to bring home the famous sourdough bread.

Your travels make take you back to New York for bagels, cream cheese and lox or back to New Orleans for a PO-boy sandwich. From New Orleans head east by car, plane or cruise ship (the one I like) to Florida for a slice of key lime pie. 

Head north again to Philadelphia for a Philly cheese steak. Turn left get on the Interstate 80/90 head to Chicago for deep dish pizza. After that get back to the 80/90 west to 35 south and it's off to Kansas City for the best of barbeque. That of course will start an argument with those in Memphis who will prove their claim with the world famous BBQ contest along the river held every May. Yet South Carolina too will dispute the claim with their delicious mustard based BBQ, you will just have to go to all three and decide for yourself. So seeing that you have come this far head north once again to the Maryland coast for crab cakes, Maine for Lobster then west again (I'm getting tired and hungry) to Wisconsin for cheese.

Yes from Maine to Seattle you will find wonderful dishes just from that area. We see them on menus throughout the world but they are just not the same as sampling them where they were created. From appetizers to appetizing soups and salads you will the different and the delicious, experiencing the entire world in just one country. Sure they take what is good elsewhere but putting a little spin on it makes it their own, like Cincinnati spaghetti. People have place chili on noodles throughout America but here it is theirs and everyone has a version of it, and the culinary explorer seemingly just can't get enough. Every local person knows the spot just up the street that makes the best in the world and the world is missing out...somehow.
So for the next few writings I will share with you some of these wonderful areas, no fancy foo-foo food, it's the food of the people. People who made America and food that made their homes welcoming, friendly places that it becomes hard to leave.

Cincinnati Spaghetti

2 1/4 lbs. boneless lean beef diced
1/4 cup oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1 green pepper, diced coarse
4 oz. mushrooms, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups tomatoes, seeded, peeled and chopped
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 10 oz. cans kidney beans, drained
1 lb spaghetti
grated white cheddar cheese

Trim the fat from the meat. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sauté the onion, green pepper, mushrooms and garlic until tender. Add beef and brown over medium heat.

Drain the excess grease. Add the tomatoes. Stir in the seasonings. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add beans and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.

While the sauce is simmering during the final 20 minutes bring a 8 quart pot of water to a boil, add 2 teaspoons of salt and cook the spaghetti for 12 minutes or al dente.  Drain the noodles (do not rinse with water) plate by placing the noodles on the plates and top with the chili. Serve with grated white cheddar cheese .

We Begin In Michigan

Travelling across the USA always seems to begin for us by crossing the border  of the two countries at Sarnia Ontario Canada and Port Huron Michigan USA along Interstate 69 to Flint then north on the 475. Along this route you will find some of the prettiest towns and the friendliest people in the entire state.  

One such town is Frankenmuth a bit of a tongue twist but it is better known as the Christmas Town USA. Originally settled by the Bavarian people of Germany, there is always a warm "willommen" welcome to all who stop there, but be very careful you may not want to leave.  Covered bridges, horse drawn carriages, Christmas year round, chicken dinners, why there is even a Santa Claus school here for the younger St. Nick's.

With 23 annual festivals there is no lack of fun, food or excitement for those wanting a great little vacation close to home. Begin the year with the Zehnder's Snowfest in January then pick and choose any other like the Launch to the Summer festival in May, the World of Beer festival, Summer Music Fest in August, Auto Fest (A celebration of classic cars) held in September and of course the big one of he year, the October Fest also held in September as they do in Germany. Be sure to always begin your holiday celebration at the Frankenmuth Holiday Celebration and Candle walk held in November.  These festivals will reveal to you how friendly the Frankenmuth citizens are and how very much they love their town, food and the heritage they proudly display.

When dining in Frankenmuth there are many fine choices, however the must go to place is Zehnders  known globally for Buttered noodles with Frankenmuth Chicken.  Here is the recipe, close but it's better in the beautiful restaurant.


1 lb. medium wide egg noodles, cooked al dente, drained
1/3-1/2 c. melted butter
1 1/2 c. club crackers, crushed
1 t. dry, minced parsley
1/4 t. ground poultry seasoning
1/2 t. Frankenmuth chicken seasoning (recipe follows)
1 can (14 oz.) clear chicken broth, to dilute noodles later, if necessary

Set cooked noodles aside. Combine above ingredients, except canned broth, to make topping. Place cooked noodles in a buttered or Pam-sprayed (3 quart) baking dish and sprinkle club cracker mixture over top.


1/4 c. Betty Crocker instant potato buds, no substitute
3 T. chicken bouillon powder
1 t. poultry seasoning
1 t. rubbed sage
1 t. black pepper
1 small packet Ranch dressing mix

Place above ingredients in a blender and pulse until finely powdered. Use as a seasoning for chicken or other dishes. Store at room temperature, tightly capped, for several months.
(makes 1/2 cup)


Poaching the chicken first is the key.
1 (3 pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces
1 large onion, halved - unpeeled
3 carrots, cut into chunks - unpeeled
2 stalks celery, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
water to cover
Frying the poached chicken makes it great.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cracker meal
1 cup Frankenmuth chicken seasoning (see above)
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups buttermilk
 2 cups vegetable oil for frying

Place chicken in a large pot with onion, carrots, celery and peppercorns; add water to cover. Cover pot and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook for about 60 minutes, or until chicken meat is tender on the bone. Remove chicken, chill to cool. Strain the broth and reserve for soup, sauces or gravies.
Put the flour and cracker meal in a large plastic bag (let the amount of chicken you are cooking dictate the amount of flour you use). Season the flour with the seasoning, salt and pepper to taste (paprika helps to brown the chicken).

Take your cut up poached chicken pieces and dip chicken the pieces in buttermilk then, a few at a time, put them in the bag with the flour, seal the bag and shake to coat well. Place the coated chicken on a cookie sheet or tray, and cover with a clean dish towel or waxed paper. Let sit until the flour is a paste-like consistency, this is crucial!

Fill a large skillet (cast iron is best) about 1/3 to 1/2 full with vegetable oil. Heat until VERY hot. Put in as many chicken pieces as the skillet can hold. Brown the chicken in HOT oil on both sides. When browned, reduce heat and cover skillet; let cook for 30 minutes (the chicken will be cooked through but not crispy). Remove cover, raise heat again and continue to fry until crispy.

Drain the fried chicken on paper towels. Depending on how much chicken you have, you may have to fry in a few shifts. Keep the finished chicken in a slightly warm oven while preparing the rest.


Once your visit to Frankenmuth is reluctantly over it is time to get back on the Interstate 475 (becomes Hwy 75) and head north. In order to drive from Mackinaw City to St. Ignace you must pass over the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere, spanning the Straits of Mackinac. 

The Straits of Mackinac are major shipping lane connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, the straits are five miles (8 km) wide at its narrowest point, where it is spanned by the Mackinac Bridge.

Below the spectacular bridge lies the Mackinac Island a world renown tourist area, summer of course. The island is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park, no motor vehicles are allowed on the island so walking, horse-drawn carriages and bicycles are the favored modes of transportation will get you the best views of the straits. Special to the island is the extraordinary world famous Victorian Grand Hotel the nation's most favored summer resort. Constructed in 1887 the hotel is now 126 years old, the 660 foot long hotel porch is the world's longest porch. 

Along Main St. you will many and various shops, restaurants and the world famous Mackinac Island fudge shops. Summer after summer "fudgies" return to Mackinac just for a taste of fudge, a delicious way to spend the day searching for your favorite.


3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup light corn syrup
4 tbsp butter

Line an 8 inch square pan with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Alternatively, butter the pan.
In a large 3 quart saucepan, combine sugar, milk, corn syrup and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture comes to a boil. Cook to 238F on candy thermometer (soft ball stage). Do not stir. Remove from heat. Do not stir.

Cool to 120F. Beat until mixture starts to lose its gloss. Quickly pour into greased pan.


150g butterscotch chips
3 cups sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups milk
4 tbsp butter                                                            
1 tsp vanilla

Line an 8 inch square pan with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Alternatively, butter the pan.
Melt butterscotch chips in pan over very low heat. Stir in sugar, corn syrup, and milk. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring until sugar dissolves. Wash crystals from side of pan. Cook to 238F on candy thermometer (soft ball stage). Remove from heat, and without stirring, add butter.
Cool to 120F. Add vanilla and beat until mixture begins to thicken. Pour mixture into the pan and cut into squares when cool (room temperature).


4 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
3 cups sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups milk
4 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups nuts (optional)

Line an 8 inch square pan with foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Alternatively, butter the pan.
Melt chocolate in pan over very low heat. Stir in sugar, corn syrup, and milk. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring until sugar dissolves. Wash crystals from side of pan. Cook to 238F on candy thermometer (soft ball stage). Remove from heat, and without stirring, add butter.
Cool to 120F. Add vanilla and beat until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in nuts. Pour mixture into the pan and cut into squares when cool (room temperature).

Now only  80 miles to Sault Ste. Marie but leaving the island will be tough, however the expression is "when the going get tough, the tough get going" so off we go. "Northern Lower Michigan"  here many enjoy the great outdoor experiences by boating, golf, and camping, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, birding, bicycling, horse back riding, motorcycling, and 'off roading' or maybe explore the wonderful great lake shorelines, one the eight lighthouses around the coast. You will see spectacular scenes and be sure to catch the sunsets on the lakes while sipping from a bottle of fine wine.

Art work of Will Enns

Hunger shall come and when it does find a quaint little diner and order the lake trout, fresh, tender, just off the boat, out of the lake into the frying pan, it is so very good. Moomers Farm Creamery of  Traverse City, (it's on Long Lake Rd, of course) will serve you the best of ice cream hand made right there and each scoop is piled high on cone or dish with a lot of love. The drive is dotted with little shanties selling old fashion "hand pies" called Cornish Pasties. What's a hand pie? Just what it defines, a small pie either sweet or savory serve cold or warm that you eat with your fingers, think of the apple turnover and you'll what a hand pie is. This part of Michigan has a rich and diverse history part of which is British and the Cornish pasties is a British hand pie.

Cornish pasties  were the lunch box food of the Cornish tin miners, these hand pies often combined both the savory on one half and then the sweet side on the other, being sure they complemented each was left in the hands of the skilled cook.  Generally the pie contained ground or diced meat, potatoes, and onion wrapped together in a short crust. So popular to the Cornish area the government has given it a PGI designation (British Protected Geographical Indication)this means the hand pie cannot be called "Cornish" unless it is made within the PGI area, thus causing anyone who makes them elsewhere to refer to them as Cornish style pasties, either way they are great little pies and very filling.


1 pound beef sirloin tip steak, diced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (3 cups)
3 green onions with tops, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash nutmeg


4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch baking powder
1 cup shortening
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup cold water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream


In a large bowl, combine the beef, potatoes, onions and seasonings; set aside. For pastry, in a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Cut in shortening and butter. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 12 pieces; roll each into 6-in. circles. Moisten edges with water. Place about 1/2 cup filling on half of each circle. Fold other half over the filling; press edges together with a fork to seal.

Cut several slits in each pastry. Place on a baking sheet. Combine egg and cream; brush over pastry tops. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake 40-45 minutes longer or until golden brown. Yield: 12 servings.

Cornish Style Pasties

While you travel look for the ever ripen fruit along the highway being sold at small stands. Fruit like wild blueberries (my favorite) apples (there are more than 25 varieties ripening from mid August to late October), peaches, pears, strawberries can provide a wonderful pick me up or fantastic breakfast or just a snack throughout the day.


1 recipe pie dough recipe, see above
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup (1/2 pint) fresh blueberries
1 cup diced apple, peeled and cored
1 egg yolk
Sanding or crystal sugar, for garnish

Chill the pie dough for at least 1 hour before making hand pies.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Set aside.
In another bowl, coat the blueberries and apples with lemon juice. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture and stir until blueberries are evenly coated.

Roll out chilled pie dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out circles approximately 5-6 inches in diameter (I used the rim of a 5 1/2 inch diameter round bowl to cut out circles). Fill center of dough circle with blueberry filling. The amount you can fit inside will depend on the size of your blueberries (I was able to fit 2 tablespoons of filling in each hand pie).

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk with two tablespoons water. Brush egg wash on the edges of dough circles, fold in half, and seal the edges with a fork.

Chill hand pies for at least 1/2 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Remove the pies from the refrigerator and brush with remaining egg wash. Sprinkle with sanding sugar and cut a small slit in the top of each pie to let out steam. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until pies are golden brown and flaky. Cool to room temperature before serving. 8 pies

The journey now has you arriving at the international twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie one in the USA the other across the border in Canada. The cities derive their name from the Sainte Marie (St. Mary) river. Sault is an old French term for rapids thus in French Les Saults de Sainte Marie, the rapids of St. Mary, for short Sault Ste. Marie. The Ojibwa Indians are from the Lake Superior area and the surrounding territories. The Ojibwa Native American are from this area they are also known as the Chippewa. Much of their food depended on fry bread, hominy, wild fruits and berries and of course the liquid gold of the Maple tree, Maple syrup.


2 ½ pounds of all-purpose flour
2 cups of water and one cup of milk (regular or canned milk)
1 tablespoon instant rise yeast
1 tablespoon of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar
Cooking oil (about 5 ½ cups)

Place the flour into a medium sized bowl. Push flour to the sides of the bowl making a hole in the middle, the hole in the flour will imitate another bowl.

Mix the milk with the water and heat in a microwave for two minutes or until warm to the touch. Pour into the flour bowl.

Add the yeast to the liquid and let stand for 3 or 4 minutes, until the yeast becomes foamy.

Stir the sugar and salt into the flour.

Start mixing slowly by pouring small amounts of the flour into the liquid.

Make sure not to let any lumps of flour be present in the mixture

Mix until thick and dense.

Knead in remaining flour to develop the bread.

Oil the sides of the 2nd medium sized bowl and transfer dough.

Knead for 1 to 2 minutes (do not over knead).

Cover and allow the dough to rise until it double its size.

Divide the dough into equal pieces and place a small hole in the center using a knife or cookie cutter.
Fill medium sized skillet (cast iron preferred) half way with cooking oil and heat on medium-high heat to 325F.

Place a few pieces at a time (do not crowd) into the oil and fry one side to golden brown, flip and fry the other side.

Remove and place on a platter for serving. can be served as a side dish with savory foods or drizzle honey over for a breakfast.

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